Board gets first look at proposed Arlington schools budget for 2019

ARLINGTON – The school board on Monday got an early look at the proposed $74.8 million Arlington Public Schools budget for 2019.

It’s the district’s first spending plan since new state legislation shook up how schools are funded, and added a requirement to develop a four-year budget for longer-term financial planning.

“In both cases, our priority is to align our resources to increase student learning and achievement, support the District Strategic Plan goals and use an equity lens for decision making,” Superintendent Chrys Sweeting said.

“Long-term budget planning provides us with a picture of how our budget decisions today will impact the present and the future,” she said.

A budget public hearing is set for 6 p.m. Aug. 13 in the Board Room at the Administration Office, 315 N. French Ave.

The total proposed operating budget is $74.8 million against projected revenues of $80.8 million, with a beginning fund balance of $8.5 million, said Gina Zeutenhorst, executive director of Financial Services.

She said the 2017-18 budget ending fund balance is now being projected to come in at $8.5 million, higher than estimates, and increases for the coming year will bring that total to $9.4 million.

That’s a good sign of healthy operating capital, although Zeutenhorst cautioned, “It may be high now, but it’s not going to be high in future years.”

The higher fund balance is the result of several positive developments. Enrollment saw 95 more students than budgeted for, which brought in additional state revenue and required adding more teachers. Also, local tax revenues collected were higher than expected due to a good economy, people were paying delinquent taxes higher than projected, interest earnings were up, and state timber fund dollars added $2.2 million more than expected at the end of the school year.

Among other major funds, the 2018-19 spending plan would allocate $6 million to the debt service fund to make principal and interest payments on an existing bond that is a few years from payoff, and $1.4 million in the transportation vehicle fund related to a $1.2 million non-voted bond issued last March to five new school buses, and five more in the upcoming school year, Zeutenhorst said.

The spending plan anticipates adding potentially 30 new positions to the current 526 employed at in the district, including teachers and classified workers, with more emphasis on Kindergarten through 3rd Grade where the district is seeing much enrollment growth.

Overall enrollment is expected to increase by 282 students to 5,650.

State dollars fund 82 percent of the district’s programs in the the general fund, with 12.2 percent hailing from local taxes, 3.5 percent from federal sources, and 2.3 percent from local donations and other entities.

Sweeting said administrators, principals and staff members have been submitting their wish lists and needs.

“We’re making some final decisions on those, but some are ones that we have tentative approval on,” she said.

Among them, she pointed out continuing the behavioral support position, more Kindergarten through 3rd grade teachers and a place to put them, band uniforms, music instrument repair and replacement, and an activity bus for AHS.

Also, she said Eric DeJong, executive director of Teaching and Learning, has been developing a matrix to more equitably allocate para-educator support from building to building, starting with the elementary schools.

The budget process continues to seek feedback from district staff and the community. The public can view proposed budget information on the district website at http://www.asd.wednet.edu.

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